Look at the Money We Are Up Against! – Millwall Pre-Season Report
Wednesday, 2nd Aug 2017 11:15 by HarryFromBath
In the 19th of a series of pre-season reports, HarryfromBath assesses the mood around the Championship clubs by delving into their forums, focusing here on how things have been for the Lions since their League One play-off triumph. Reports on Wolves and Aston Villa will follow later today with all of the teams in the division covered by and the start of the season.
“What a great season. What with cup wins against Leicester, Watford and Bournemouth, not to mention another appearance at Wembley, for a club the size of Wall that adds up to a pretty good season”, “One thing is for sure, nobody can say that we had a dull season last year.”
“I am just hoping that we don’t keep getting beaten and lose confidence.” Lions know what they are up against this year and are relishing the challenge. “An unfancied Millwall team can cause problems for all sides in this division. Ask the three Premier League sides who lost at the Den last season.”
“All the games will be tough now”, “The start we have is important”, “I just hope we can leave the Den after every game this year saying we played well, tried our best and got stuck in”, “We have a team of grafters with a good mix of youngsters who will do us proud and fight for every ball.”
“I’m sticking with top six, and for Neil Harris to go on and manager England in the future”, “Harris is certainly a motivator and without that quality we could have gone all pear-shaped last season”, “He kept the core of team together after they had lost the previous Play-Off Final and he built on that.”
The 40-year-old manager, who is Millwall’s all-time record goalscorer, was appointed manager after in April 2015 after the Lions were relegated from the Championship. He has subsequently led them to successive League One play-off finals, losing to Barnsley in 2016 and beating Bradford in May.
He has been praised for his motivational skills, simple football philosophy and for his clever work in the transfer market. “Harris said he started identifying possible transfer targets in February and has done really shrewd business during the close season. His signings have all been very positive.”
“Harris has built a real team spirit and shaped us into a modern ‘Crazy Gang’, lots of local lads and Wall fans in the squad and a direct and aggressive style. Add in the high of winning at Wembley and it will be enough to keep us safe this season. I doubt many teams will enjoy a visit to the Den.”
Five players have left the club this summer. Veteran keeper David Forde is now at Cambridge, left-back Joe Martin has joined Stevenage and winger George Wylde is now at Plymouth. Two players loaned out for the season are striker Harry Smith (to Swindon) and Jimmy Abdou (to Wimbledon.)
“I have a feeling we have done very good business this summer”, “Ten of the squad have over a season’s experience in the Championship.” Harris has signed seven players on permanent deals this summer and has kept the core of his promoted squad by offering contract extensions to a further seven.
Two midfielders have arrived from Wolves, 23-year-old Jed Wallace and Robert Saville, 24, while a third midfielder to be added this week was one-time Town loan player Ryan Tunncliffe, the 24-year-old was signed on a free transfer from Fulham. Striker Tom Elliott, 26, has also joined from Wimbledon.
The Lions’ defence has been strengthened by the addition of right-back Conor McLaughlin, a 25-year-old Northern Ireland international from Fleetwood, and Jake Cooper, 22, from Reading, who was on loan at the Den from January. The most eye-catching arrival has been left-back James Meredith.
“We have signed 29-year-old James Meredith from Bradford. He is the pacy Australia international left-back who was in the League One Team of the Year”, “He looks the brightest light at the back, solid in the tackle, getting up and down the line and with a real hunger to get involved in the game.”
“Harris has been indelibly welded to a 4-4-2 for the past two seasons and although he has tinkered with it, he is a firm believer and it won’t change much”, “The past two seasons playing 4-4-2 brought us two play-off finals and a promotion to the Championship. I can’t see it changing any time soon.”
Millwall’s pre-season began with draws away to Dartford (1-1) and Folkestone Invicta (2-2) before the side played two behind closed doors games in Portugal. On their return, they lost 1-0 at Barnet and drew 0-0 at Stevenage before beating Spanish Second Division side Granada 3-0 on Saturday.
“Some very good combinations and partnerships in the 4-4-2.” The starting XI (above) which beat Granada has the experienced spine of former Fulham centre-half Sam Hutchinson, the midfield duo of Saville and ex-Milton Keynes man Shaun Williams and former Norwich striker Steve Morison.
The team which concluded the Granada game (above) gives a idea of the wider squad. One of the best-known players is 20-year-old attacker Fred Odeyinma who was linked in the media with a move to several top-flight teams. Lions were happy when he signed a new three-year deal this summer.
“Granada strolled around at the back a bit like Barcelona, but as soon as they got over the halfway line they looked National League”, “I was really pleased with some of the ball control and passing. We were getting in on the ground and playing it long. We’ll do well if we carry on playing like that.”
“The way we set up is almost like a cup side and we love those big, one-off, backs-to-the-wall type games”, “If we add more variety to our game we should avoid an immediate return to League One. If we persist with last season’s route one approach, it could be a long and disappointing campaign.”
Back in the Championship
“There will be some tough games, especially away from home and some where we will be really up against it, against teams worth millions in big stadiums with hostile crowds”, “Next season will be tough. But we can become a modern Wimbledon, aggressive, direct and with a great team spirit.”
“Every so-called pundit I have read has us in the bottom three. It will be great to stick it to them and prove them all wrong”, “I know being a miserable **** is part of the Millwall DNA, but we can make a name for ourselves next season. Make the Den a citadel again and we will be looking at mid-table.”
“Most teams won’t fancy it here”, “We need to make the Den an evil, vile, horrible place for teams and supporters to visit”, “Make the Den a place all the pampered big team players hate coming to, verbals in the stand and on the pitch. Drag them into battles and make it hard as hell for them.”
“I have a sneaky feeling we will do well. **** only knows why I think this, but there you go”, “I have committed myself to going up in the play- offs. Just the thought of the media and Old Bill ****ting themselves puts a smile on my face”, “An unfancied team, that’s exactly what Millwall like to be.”
Photo: Action Images
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